Analogous stroboscope

Nut intonation is not the most fun thing I know, but it is necessary. I have long looked at a genuine analog stroboscope tuner without the delay to collect data when plucking a string that is present in all digital variants. When doing a nut intonation, you probably tune +100 times and that delay becomes annoying. I took the plunge and invested in a real lump of an analog stroboscope tuner. It was not cheap. An approximately 3 kg heavy piece in 1970s design.

The very first tuner, Stroboconn, was introduced in 1936 and manufactured for 40 years by Conn. Peterson came up with the first semiconductor model in 1967. The one I bought is a smarter variant with the same analog rotating disk with a stroboscope lamp behind. An advantage with an analog stroboscope is that it basically never needs to be calibrated, it will always show the correct pitch.

I did not know how it was to use one, there are both positives and negatives. It is a bit more accurate than its digital twin, but also more difficult to read. There was also a short delay when the engine revs up to the right speed for the tuning of the string in Auto mode, but not as slow as with the digital one. It has a noise too, but not as disturbing and not as loud as I feared. What bothered me, however, was that the light from the stroboscope. It was flickering like a disco ball when it had no signal in! I solved this with a small blindfold in black plastic that I can fold down when in stand-by. I also made the window a little smaller with a tape around the edge to avoid looking straight into the stroboscope lamp at a certain angle.

I could also see that my old digital StroboPlus is almost as accurate as the analog one and has a more stable screen. I can recommend this one to the common man, the analog tuner is probably only good for people like me. It can be said that digital technology is well on its way to replacing the analogue one. The analog one does not replace my digital, but will be used every time I do the nut intonation. Just the fact that it weighs 3 kg means that I do not have to worry about not pulling it down from the table with the guitar cord!

Repairs

Since I had a difficult summer with pollen and asthma, I have not been diligent with my blog. But it has worked during the days without problems, for some reason I have not felt the pollen in the shop. Now it feels better, as it always does when autumn and winter replace the flowering greenery.

Although nothing has happened on the blog, I have been diligent, though not as efficient as usual. When I cleaned the room and repainted the floor, a lot of repairs appeared that was, if not forgotten, so at least undone. This is not good. I think that about 10 guitars of different kinds have been fixed and left the shop during the summer. The problem is that there is more to do. Right now I am finishing the last two GammelGura in the current batch and when they are finished I will do some more repairs before I start the next batch.

Three of the repairs were a little more special than the others. The repair that basically became a complete GammelGura, and which was more laborious than a regular GammelGura, was a full-size Scottish Moon guitar from the 1990s. It is a rather unusual guitar that was popular with many English artists in the 1980s and 1990s. It is slightly better than you the guitars you usually see from that time period, with only solid woods and some unusual details. It was lightly built, and the top had sunk in around the sound hole. The mission was to make it as good as possible. Of course, it was X-braced and had a truss rod, the bridge had a two-part saddle and the ebony fretboard and cover plate on the head was made in one piece of ebony. Walnut in the bottom and sides. The mahogany neck was extremely thin, it was the highest fashion at the time and was well suited for electric guitarists who are used to narrow necks.

I took it on because I was curious about how my inventions would work on a full-size dreadnough. I was prepared for an extra lot of problems as it was glued with modern glue. I was right.

The neck attachment was not the best, as the truss rod was adjusted through the sound hole, both the top brace and the neck block were weakened by the milling for the rod. That construction was probably partly the reason why the top was sinking in at the sound hole. The braces were a little too weak to hold in the long run as well, usually the braces are too strong. Thicknesses on the side, top and bottom were good.

To loosen the bottom, I had to scrap the wooden strip around the bottom. Wood is nice, but a wooden strip glued with modern glue can not be saved. I milled away the strip, it was later replaced with a birch strip with the same color and structure as the original. The bottom was braced with what looks like mahogany, I reglued some braces that was a bit loose, but the originals were left.

The top was cleaned from braces and I made a slightly stronger X-bracing with an A-frame around the sound hole. I got help from Per Marklund to dimension the braces, I chose not to use scalloped ribs. I had never understood why you do that, but now I know it is done to weaken the surface around the bridge and give more bass. Next time I will test that variant. The bridge plate was made of spruce, and it got plugs. End wood birch under the E-string and end wood in spruce for the other strings. Buttons in hard bubinga around the stringpin holes were mounted as usual.

The original bridge was planed down and it was replaced with a new piece of rosewood with the old bridge as a template. It received the standard nut intonation and a segmented saddle.

Everything went as planned, the bottom and the new birch binding were glued and scrapped. I only painted the new wooden binding with plastic lacquer and not the whole guitar. The neck had too much of a relief, when I was going to adjust the truss rod, it turned out that it was broken! The owner had bought it used and had never tried to adjust it…

So. The only thing to do was to loosen the fretboard and the neck (again). Not so easy to do when the modern glue under the board was very hard to break. It was inevitable that some wood fibers on the edge of the neck stuck on the fretboard. After the fretboard was glued back with hot hide glue, I had to work with tough superglue and plastic lacquer to fill in the cracks along the edge. The truss rod was epoxy glued and could not be removed. Luckily, everything except the bar itself was made of aluminum. After getting the rod loose, I used a cutter to mill off the rest of the aluminum. Here I made a mistake, when I was cleaning the channel from glue, the tip of the knife went through the neck close to the nut - I saw the light shining through the neck… It turned out that the bottom of my 1 cm deep channel was only about half a mm from the back! After a solid 1 × 1 cm carbon fiber rod was glued, I again had to work with self-drying tough superglue to fill the hole.

It was a long story, but the end result was really good. The carbon fiber rod instead of the truss rod gave a lighter guitar with a more stable neck attachment, probably also a better sounding guitar. It was quite honestly the dreadnought that I think sounded best of the ones I've tried so far. It became extremely even across the strings, with good separation and volume. In addition, a very distinct and clear sound with a solid bass. It basically sounds like an GammelGura usually does, but with extra bass. I got a receipt that my inventions also work on a modern guitar, for once I wanted to play longer than a quarter on an X-braced guitar!

A Levin archtop from, I think, 1948 would be repaired with neck reset, new frets and a simple pick guard with a mic. I'm not fond of the sound of an archtop, to me, it sounds mostly string, but with a mic it sounds better. The neck reset and fretting went as planned. The pick guard was milled out of a black plastic plate (I have some milling templates for Levin pick guards). Then came the tricky task of attaching the mic, pick guard, jack and potentiometers for tone and volume to the guitar. I glued a piece of rosewood under the end of the fingerboard to be able to screw on the mic. A stable holder for the jack was manufactured, and the soldering equipment had to be dusted off. Not the most fun I know, but necessary sometimes.

When everything was ready and after new strings and vibration, it sounded as good as one can do. Connected, everything worked as it should 🙂

The third special repair was another large Levin archtop, but with the name Kay-Tone on its head and fantastically fine maple in the bottom and sides. The local customer, who was 90 years old, left it in person - the steep stairs down to the basement were no obstacle. The guitar had been bought used and a few years old in the 1950s. The problem with it was that the bottom had swelled and instead of shrinking, the middle joint had broken, and the bottom was pressed up in the middle. Karlsson's celluloid based glue had been used to "repair". It also lacked some celluloid binding on the neck. Otherwise, fully functional.

It was heavy and sounded nothing but string. The reason why came when I opened up the bottom, I have never seen such strong braces in both the bottom and top! Grotesquely thick, I would say. The bottom was glued together with a thin rosewood strip in the middle and a glue strip on the inside over the middle joint, new and half as thick braces were mounted. The single top brace was planed down to a more appropriate thickness. The original celluloid binding could be reused when the bottom was glued back.

 

After new strings and vibration, it had both tone and sustain and not just the sound of strings. With low string height and crowned frets, I hope it will be played for many more years!

I can mention that all customers have been very satisfied and grateful with their repairs, it is one of the positive sides of a job like mine 🙂

GG178, a European parlor with a carved bridge

After many ifs and buts, I am up and running with the batch again. It took its time to tidy up the shop and build a rolling shutter for the new band saw. I have had an unusual number of distractions also with very interesting objects and an apprenticeship week. I have also worked on an article in English about my unique methods that will be published in American Luthierie, hopefully this year. It feels good to get started again!

  • Total length: 92,5 cm
  • Top (upper round, waist, lower round): 24 - 18 - 30,8 cm
  • Side (neck block, waist, end block): 7,2 - 8 - 7,7 cm
  • Neck: V-shape
  • Fingerboard (nut, 12th, bridge): 44 - 56 - 62 mm
  • String length: 62,5 cm
  • Paint: Spirit varnish
  • Weight: 1107 g

The first of the remaining objects in the batch to be completed is number 178, a small old European parlor in rather deplorable condition. It was complete, but with lots of cracks in the top, bottom and sides. At some point, it has been renovated, cracks have been repaired with carpentry glue and provided with an impressive carved "monster bridge" in maple or birch, similar to those made by KB. I think it is old and from the end of the 1800th century, the size, fretboard in the same plane as the top of the head, the tuners and the bracing of the top indicate it.

That the bridge has been replaced can be seen in the double rows of string holes in the top, it originally had a mustache bridge. Of course, such a large bridge is not good for the sound, but without it the top would look awful and it would lose all its charm. It must be kept. The matching and equally charming tuners were fully functional and could be retained. The fretboard, which was thin and flat, was replaced with a new and thicker rosewood one that was given a 16 ″ radius. I found a plank that fit well in both color and texture against the bridge.

It is not visible in the pictures, but the lid was sunk probably 1 cm in front of the bridge. The reason for this was the completely incorrect placement of the lower brace, below the bridge instead of in front. For some reason, they did so on early parlor guitars. Probably when tops began to sink in from the rotation, they switched to placing the brace in front of the bridge. Both sideshad really long cracks, both repaired with carpentry glue. The glue was cleaned off and the cracks were glued with hot skin hide glue and got a reinforcement of 0.6 mm maple veneer with the grain across the crack on the inside.

The bottom, which was thin and in a piece of wood, had a solid diagonal crack.

The rop was only about 2 mm thick with several cracks. Either the top was thin already at the time of manufacture, or the top had been thinned out during the previous renovation. To make the top stronger, I glued on a diamond-shaped about 1 mm thick spruce plate, with the grain in the same direction as the top, under the bridge on the top inside before I glued the new bracing. The bridge plate was given a narrow extension to the side in an attempt to improve it. It turned out that this change did not give a noticeably better sound in any of the objects I made in the batch (not worse either!). In the future, I will probably return to the simpler form I used before this batch.

The bottom and side had a special and contrasting vein painting. The one who made it was skilled, but did not make it subtle! The solid V-shaped neck was unusually not completely painted black.

Some pictures after the disassembly. A piece of the bottom came loose at the end block, to loosen the thin bottom without damaging it more, I sawed off the top of the neck block.

To loosen the carpentry glue, the glue was soaked with water-soaked paper strips.

 

Here I'm gluing the maple veneer over the second of the long cracks in the sides. A fitting piece had already been glued on top of the neck block.

The bridge was in a piece of maple or birch, but it had cracked in some places. The pieces were glued together with hot hide glue.

The diamond-shaped reinforcement and the new braces and cleats were glued in my go-bar with a radius plate as an abutment that matches the curvature of the braces at 30 ″.

The customer wanted a K&K pickup fitted, which is easy when the bottom is off. As the bottom was thin, it had not shrunk much in width despite the long crack. I was able to glue the cracks together and still make the bottom fit well against the sides when gluing the bottom. To make the bottom fit, the sides is pressed in a few mm on both sides at the narrowest point. The circumference of the sides decreases and the bottom can fit perfectly on the rest of the sides. Excess bottom in the narrowest place can be easily scrapped off with a sharp knife when the bottom is glued.

I had problems with the neck gluing and had to redo it once to get the right angle to the saddle. The sharp V-shape of the pin in the dove-tail attachment made it difficult to control the angle. As always with old parlor guitars made for gut strings, the neck angle was far too steep, I probably had to file away 3 mm on the tip of the neck foot. The bridge was evenly high and not lower on the treble side, so I planed down the top on the treble side a couple of mm and matched the color with stain and a little lamp black (which mimics dirt).

The frets were mounted, and the guitar was measured for nut intonation. My nice little jig for intonation of the saddle also worked on this bridge. There was plenty of room for an intoned saddle.

Since the bridge was not planed down when I measured it, I used my old method to find the intonation point with the back of a thin drill (my jig will be at least about 2,2 mm high).

A very thin zero nut (a ground-down old ebony nut) was super-glued to a tape to guide the strings sideways during the measurement.

A suitable segmented saddle was manufactured.

The guitar got a round of clear spirit varnish after a little staining of fresh wounds. The tuners had bushings fitted as the holes for the tuning posts were loose and worn.

After three days of vibration (which was done when the neck was glued to the body) it turned out that it actually sounded really good despite the oversized bridge! With four plugs and the two unwound strings without plugs, the volume was even on all strings. I also succeeded well both with the height of the saddle and the intonation. The original tuners also worked perfectly. I am very pleased with the result, I especially like the charming patina from the bridge, the worn vein painting and the tuners. It is old and ravaged, just as it should be.

General cleaning

After seven years, the shop has become a bit worn, so much so that it does not feel fun. My project right now is to clean and tidy up. The floor needed to be repainted with epoxy paint and all the carpentry needed some paint. Now the floor has been repainted and my plan is to do the rest of the shop as I go along. I have cleaned several parts of the room, but there are still cabinets and drawers that need to be sorted and cleaned out.

My little Proxxon band saw recently burned up all of a sudden, missed by no one. It never worked as it should. Sometimes a band saw is needed, so I bought a new one twice as big at Jula. Still a small band saw. To be able to use it without having to struggle with 32,5 kg of a band saw, I made a similar rolling shutter with cabinets as the one I made for my drum sander. It took a couple of days to do, but I am happy with both the band saw and the rolling shutter. If necessary, I roll it forward and fasten it to the bench with a pair of clamps. I took the opportunity to repaint and repair the old roller shutter for the drum sander too.

In the picture, I have cut out 75 brace blanks from some quartered spruce blanks originally intended for violin tops. When I'm done, I park the roller shutter out of the way along the wall to the right of the chair by the extinguisher.

All this takes time, but it will be much nicer to work when it is done!

Apprenticeship Week

It's been a while since I made a blog post, a lot has happened except managing to write blog posts. Among other things, a week with the apprentice Daniel when we worked with a severely beaten Levin. In addition to the assault, it was also one of the least lavish Levin I have encountered.

Daniel is basically an electric guitarist and he has built several of them himself, he is also a very good guitarist. He hoped to be an apprentice for a week to learn more about acoustic guitars. The Levin had been bought at a flea market and had an ugly brush vein-paint with modern varnish on the whole body. The fretboard had also been painted. It was hardly recognizable as a Levin, but despite the fact that it lacked both a medallion and a serial number, there was a Levin burn stamp inside the bottom. Since it lacked a rosette and had seven (!) Twigs in the bottom, side and neck, it was probably a second sorting that was cheap when it was sold. The bridge was planed down and one of the tuning screw knobs was missing. I myself would not have bought it…

The neck in birch and the missing medallion indicate about 1925 as the year.

When we took it apart, there was a problem with the bottom as it was the thinnest I have seen on a Levin, about 2 mm on one of the edges. It went well, but took twice as long. The bottom had 5 braces instead of 4 to compensate for the thin bottom, probably a factory mistake that was saved and used in this guitar.

The positive was that the neck was narrow and comfortable, the thin bottom was also a good detail.

After some discussion, we came to the conclusion that the best alternative was to blow it completely clean from the ugly modern varnish and mount a new fingerboard in rosewood. A new bridge and new tuning screws were also necessary. To preserve a small memory from the previous renovation, an inlay similar to the decorative painting on top of the head would be inlayed in using ebony.

The work rolled on, we worked all week from 8:00 to 21:00 every day. Daniel clocked 73 hours for his job. Despite the diligence, we did not have time to get the guitar completely ready, it took a day and a half of work for me for the last production of the nut, saddle and adjustment. Removing the old paint stole a lot of time, it also did the job to apply the new paint. When I myself was hard hit by pollen that week, I went at half speed, but apart from that, most things went well without major mistakes.

Daniel had a try on most of the steps, except for some steps where it was a great risk of making a mistake or that take a long time for a beginner. For example, milling the trench for the carbon fiber rod or the manufacturing of the bridge.

Part of the rim was extremely thin with several repaired cracks, a 0,6 mm veneer was glued to the inside. In the picture, the bar under the fretboard is also glued as the last bar in the top. It was given an extra large radius to avoid having to glue a wedge under the fretboard.

Here are some pictures from the gluing of the bottom. The bottom got 5 new braces, a K&K mic was mounted in the top. Of course, the top got all new braces and a bridege plate in spruce with four plugs and buttons in bubinga around the string pin holes.

Here we see Daniel working with the inlay in ebony on top of the head copied from the old painting.

The top was sanded and scraped down carefully so as not to thin down the lid too much. Some ink drawings around the sound hole had to be left, plus other defects, because we thought it looked cool. The top was lightly colored golden orange with the help of a stain made of wood shavings from bubinga that were allowed to soak for a long time in pure alcohol. The bottom was stained with brown “Carl Johan” Herdin water based stain. Several coats of spirit varnish primer and spirit varnish were applied, one coat of spirit varnish at the bottom also got a brown color to match the darker color of the neck.

When I measured the intonation, in addition to the pollen allergy, I had a bout of stomach ache. Maybe that's why I did not see that the stroboscope tuner ended up in a "sweetener" mode without me noticing. I spent half a day measuring the world's strangest intonation before I realized that the tuner showed completely wrong values! I do not want to do that again.

When the saddle and nut were in place and after three days of vibration, it turned out that even a second grade Levin with seven twigs can sound good! Since Daniel is an electric guitarist, it had to be 2,3 mm for the 12th band and thick E-string and 1,5 mm for thin e.

A few days later, Daniel came by and picked up his finished guitar. It will surely be used, it sounded good when he played on it 🙂

Coles, ca 1905

In my private collection I had an American parlor made with the finest rosewood. The story begins with a purchase of a guitar project on eBay by a customer who wanted to make an GammelGura on it. When it came from the USA, it turned out that the neck was extremely wide, about 49 mm at the nut, and did not suit the customer who wanted a narrower neck. I ended up redeeming it and another guitar with a narrow neck was used as GammelGura object. Hera are pictures from the eBay auction.

Unlike old European parlor guitars, the American ones are almost always provided with a manufacturer name. This one had a stamp "W. A. Cole, Boston" on top of the edge of the head, inside was an ink stamp "W. A. Cole, Boston, 1898 Model". After some searching on the internet, it turned out that many high-quality banjos were manufactured under the name W. A. Cole around 1890-1922, not as many guitars. But the ones that are available are nice, often with very intricate inlays in the fretboard. The guitars also have their own and lightly built variant of the X-bracing. It is an unusual guitar of good quality, here you can see a finer copy. Here you can also read more about WA Cole.

This guitar was simpler, but still with a nice rosette with several layers of herringbone strips. At the bottom there is also a beautiful center strip. As stated, the best rosewood in the bottom and side and as veneer on the top of the head. Mahogany in the neck and top in spruce, most likely Adirondack. The paint on the top is colored orange, the same color I have seen on other American parlor guitars from around 1900. I think this is made about 1905, a copy dated to 1909 had simple round dots in the fretboard. The tuning screws are beautiful and works very well. The inlays in the fretboard, on the other hand, are rather sparse and not engraved as on finer specimens. The ebony fingerboard was flat with a white celluloid strip around it.

The bridge was replaced by a larger, more modern one. The bottom had several cracks (which were difficult to see in the dark wood!). The neck had probably received a blow when the foot of the neck was cracked and the top repaired around the sound hole at the end of the fingerboard. There is a mark on the back of the neck as well, probably from the "bang"! The top had some major cracks behind the bridge. An pearl inlay at the 12th band had been removed, and a screw had been pulled into the neck foot to repair the crack. The sides had no cracks, but there was a weakening right at the edge of the kerfing on the inside on both sides. The celluloid strip around the fretboard was thin, and a few pieces were missing. Despite all the small problems and previous repairs, the condition was good after all, it was complete (except for the bridge) and all faults were fully repairable. Here are pictures before I cracked open the guitar.

I told about it to a friend who really wanted to buy it and get it renovated and so it was. From the beginning, it was only intended as a repair and a quick "flip", but the project grew and all the steps I usually use in an GammelGura were done. Since I took many pictures on the road on behalf of the buyer (except when I forgot the camera at home), there are many pictures of this renovation process.

The celluloid strip around the bottom could be loosened completely. The celluloid was still tough and flexible and had not shrunk much, very unusual! The neck came loose in two parts, no glue had been used when tightening the screw. Under the bridge, the top was very broken.

 

Nice inlays and purflings.

The braces in the bottom sat well, but only at the ends. In the middle, the glue had released. Here I did one of the two mistakes made during the renovation, the top brace was well glued, and the bottom had an unexpected run-out, so there was a crack in the bottom after I loosened the brace that did not exist before.

The braces of the top sat really well, but they were too wide and low and had been deformed. They were replaced with new, taller and narrower ones.

I found a bridge blank by the finest rosewood and a matching dark Madagascar rosewood board.

Some pictures after the repair of the top and the milling of a carbon fiber rod in the neck.

The new pyramid bridge was formed with various rasps.

Good color matching on bridge and fretboard.

Before drilling the stringpin holes, you need to measure a little.

I use a thin piece of wood to give the holes a slight slope. The underside of the bridge should follow the slightly domed top.

Before gluing the bridge, the plugs must be drilled and mounted. I used BFGGGG plugs from the E to the e string. All are end wood, B is birch, F is pine and G is spruce. In an X ribbed guitar you need treble, on a ladder braced I have no plugs on the treble unwound b and e strings. All the braces in the top had already been glued in place in my go-bar in almost the same pattern as the original.

Buttons in hard bubinga wood make the bridgeplate in spruce withstand the wear from the ball ends.

Here I glue the celluloid strip back into the sound hole. It had shrunk 1 mm in length. Nice flower!

Got some good advice from Per Marklund and took down the braces well below the X-rib junction.

A K&K mic was ordered. I drilled out the 12 mm wide hole with a step drill.

The bottom and top got cleats over the cracks.

During the bottom gluing, I made my second mistake. I heated the fridge-cold fish glue too much, so it became runny. Without seeing it, some glue ran down the side and penetrated under some caul blocks on the top side. The orange color on the top was just in the paint itself, and a few small shocks of paint got stuck in the cauls, leaving behind wood-white damage. In the future, it will be cold glue, perhaps supplemented with kitchen plastic on the edges of the top. I later saved what I could with orange stain and filled in the pits with tough 30 superglue, which was scraped flat against the rest of the top surface.

Apart from the mistake, the bottom gluing was perfect. The very narrow celluloid strip, less than 2 mm wide, actually fitted perfectly all around! It was glued back with 20 superglue. The neck foot was glued with hot hide glue, in addition, an 8 mm round rod in birch had been glued in through the entire foot with epoxy glue at the same time as the carbon fiber rod.

The dark rosewood board was filled with resins, when I was going to thin it with the rdrum sander, the resins melted and filled in two sandpaper before I was done. It took an hour to take it down 3 mm in thickness… The original fingerboard had perfectly OK placement of the frets - up to the 12th fret. After that, they were apparently applied with eye measurement, the last frets was placed 3-4 mm wrong!

Test mounting of loose fretboard. In the correct position, it was marked with a pencil from below how the fingerboard would be planed to get the right trapezoidal shape with a narrower upper part.

The fretboard got its 16 ″ radius in my new improved jig for sanding. It provides better precision, and it is easier to adjust the sanding height from above. In the last picture, the jig is ready, and the screws are cut to the right length.

The fretboard is glued with hot hide glue.

The critical neck set was then done in my neck reset gluing jig.

Before fretting, the fingerboard is ground to a small 0,15 radius in the position it is in when the strings are tuned. Among other things, I use an aluminum beam with a grounded inverted 0,15 radius as a sanding block.

The frets are mounted in my simple plank jig and a handhold fret press.

The inlays in the old fretboard are inlayed with a Dremel in the new one. I had to invent the insert at the 12th fret since the original was gone.

To crown the frets, the guitar is mounted once more in my jig with tensioned strings. The body, neck and head are then fixed with various clamps and supports so that the neck does not change its shape when the strings are loosened. Then the tops of the frets are sanded to a small relief, the tops are then rounded with a Z-file and sanded with 600 and 800 papers followed by steel wool and polishing with Autosol polishing compound. The ends of the frets are filed and rounded with special files.

 

The finished fretboard is oiled and cleaned.

Before the measurement of the saddle intonation begins, I extend the fretboard with a piece of maple. The measurement is then made with a stroboscope tuner, my special jig for adjusting the "saddle", small loose and tangless pieces of frets at the nut, new strings, feeler gauges and some tools to make adjustments to the intonation points' placement at both string ends. I also use reference strings to double-check and not be fooled by new defective strings. A boring job that takes a long time, but which is necessary.

The fretboard is cut at the point of intonation at the nut that came closest to the 1st fret.

To fit the new nut in camel bone, I use a small piece of self-adhesive sandpaper to shape the neck against the nut.

The positions of the notches in the nut are measured and marked. To easily align the measuring points, I use a long ruler between the center of the string pin hole and the marking on the nut. The lines do not become exactly 90 degrees but follow the line of the string. With a small thin saw, a saw cut is made in each notch.

The measurements from the measurement of intonation are used to mark how deep the milling should be done for all but one string (the one that came closest to the 1st band). Small brown pieces of tape mark the exact position on the nut.

The milling for intonation is done with a simple wooden jig and with the same jig that I use to mill the saddle ditch.

The measured position of the intonation points on the saddle is marked for each string. An approximately 4-4,5 mm wide inclined rectangle is marked that holds all intonation points. The rectangle is cut out to provide good contrast when the ditch is to be milled.

To make the segmented saddle, I first make a temporary saddle in spruce that fits perfectly in the saddle ditch. With a long ruler between the notch in the nut and placed in the center of the string pin hole, I mark where the string will pass the saddle. The the bass E side is marked with a dot so as not to turn it the wrong way.

A blank for the segmented saddle is sawn out of a piece of quartersawn spruce. The blank is thinned to about 5,5 mm in my drum sander.

Using the temporary saddle, I can mark the blank and saw out 5 mm wide notches centered over the position of the strings. I use my jig to saw fret grooves in fingerboards and a small jig that I attach the workpiece to and that moves the saw exactly 5 mm for the second sawing. The resulting pin in the middle can be easily broken off.

Finished pieces of 5 mm thick camel bone fit into the slots, the two outermost bone pieces are wider. The bone posts are then glued with tough 30 super glue, the fresh sanded spruce surfaces are "painted on" with thin liquid 10 superglue before they get dirty. A point extraction sucks away most of the aggressive fumes.

The blank is sanded approx. 1 mm lower on the treble side (according to the measurement saved when doing the intonation measurements) and then given the same radius as the fretboard. The depth of the saddle ditch is marked with a pencil. The height measured on the saddle at the intonation + the depth of the saddle ditch is used to cut the saddle to approximately the correct height. Later I glue a 1-1,5 mm strip in rosewood at the bottom to make the saddle stronger, then you also get another chance to adjust the height of saddle.

Final adjustment of the nut, saddle and intonation points on the saddle.

The guitar gets a round of thin spirit varnish, I use a clamp as a handle and a large round fine-haired brush. After at least one day of drying, the varnish is matted down with fine steel wool and polished back to a reasonable gloss with a linen cloth. After a month or so, you can polish again as the varnish has become harder.

By filing away as much as I dared on the side of the neck, I reduced the width of the nut to 46,5 mm. For me, the neck feels easy to play on, the few millimeters are noticeable!

How did it turn out then? Well, the answer is very good! I have a bit of a hard time with the tonality you get from X-bracing, a more fundamental and simple sound with more bass. Ladder bracing gives a different tone with a more complex and rich sound and less bass, which I always like. But this one turned out so well that I wanted to keep it. Very dynamic and powerful and perfect for strumming. This variant of X-bracing is at least as good as the one Martin came up with and which is standard nowadays. The braces that have been changed cover the surface of the top well. It was strung up with standard Newtone Masterclass 0,11 strings. It can probably handle 0,12 as well, but I'm a little afraid of unnecessarily high string tension.

I now have a better grasp of the X-bracing, I learned a lot on this project.

 

Braces and cleaning

It started with me wanting to clean a shelf. One thing led to the other. Now the entire stock of fretboard blanks is sorted by quality, a couple of new drawers from IKEA mounted on one of the shelves and about 200 bracing blanks are about to be ready. There is still a lot of cleaning left after that, but I will have to postpone it to the future.

When I was cleaning, I came across a banana box with splintered spruce blanks of 100-year-old spruce. They came from an old house where about 60 cm long wooden planks were placed loosely in a panty bottom with wood shavings over as insulation. Most of it was in pine, but there was a lot of spruce as well. All plank pieces were sawn from old forest, some spruce planks have such dense grain that you have to use a magnifying glass to be able to distinguish the direction of the grain! It is noticeable that it is old wood, the spruce is mostly light and a little brittle as old wood becomes. I don't really know if I dare to use it in a top. Some are still strong though. Everyone has a great tap-tone!

My friend Björn Sohlin splintered the wood many years ago, but not everything got the final shape for a brace blank. To take advantage of the splintered spruce pieces, I must first give each piece two flat surfaces at 90 degrees to each other. It was made with a long planer tightened in my vise. When doing this it is important to make sure that you get standing wood in the piece you are planing. Then all the pieces were roughly sawn to 9 mm thickness in my small electrical saw bought from Jula. I think it is awful to use it as it is both dangerous and loud, but better that than hand sawing all the pieces…

The box now contains about 200 brace blanks that still need to be shaped further with a planer and drum sander to my standard 8 x 15 mm. But half the job is done anyway. I filled two garbage bags with shavings and there will be more. What is left is just a fraction of all the wood I started with!

A trio GammelGura

I rarely do more than one GammelGura to one and the same customer at a time, in this batch there were three. I made all three ready as the first in the batch, they are still waiting to be picked up. It is two Levin from 1920 and an old European parlor. The customer actually came with three Levins in numerical order (47232, 47233, 47234), the third with floating bridge was made about a year ago. Very special! If you read in "About Levin" in Melodin 1920 was not a good year for Levin, the premises had burned down in 1918 and they only had 5-10 employees.

Two of the three Levin had floating bridges, the third a fixed bridge. The first one in good condition was allowed to keep the floating bridge, the second with a floating bridge was in a very poor condition and was converted to a permanent bridge in DADGAD tuning. The one with a fixed bridge, also in good condition, got a standard GammelGura conversion. Three identical guitars, but still different.

All three in the batch were intonated. I missed that one of the Levin would have DADGAD tuning when I was doing the measurements and I had to measure the intonation twice. In any case, the mistake was a good experiment. It turned out that the first intonation of the nut for a normal tuning was very similar between the two almost identical guitars with a fixed bridge. This indicates that in a factory you should be able to measure some guitars of the same model, take a mean value and then use that intonation on all guitars of the same model and get pretty good intonation at the nut. In a DADGAD tuning, three strings have a different tuning, the other three have slightly thinner strings in the Newtone Herritage set. The intonation of the nut for the strings with a different tuning was very different (about 2 mm) while the intonation of the thinner strings was almost identical. One can conclude that a measured intoned nut saddle works very well even if you change the string thickness, but not as well if you change the tuning.

I have also got a white board where I will write down everything that is different from a normal GammelGura for the guitars I work with! You learn.

An interesting observation is that the one with a fixed bridge had better quality of the wood, especially in the side and bottom. Those with floating bridges had inferior timber. The tap tone in the top was also better on the one with a fixed bridge, it also sounds best when finished I think. All three guitars were very blonde, but the right color on the bottom and side was much darker from the beginning and hid most of the flaws in the wood. You can see the darker red color as a shadow under the string holder and also a little of the red on the back of the one that was converted to a permanent bridge, otherwise most of the red has faded away.

As usual with Levin parlor guitars, the bottom and top were about half a mm too thick to sound at it's best, about 3,5 mm. They were thinned to just under 3 mm. Both guitars got a new fretboard with a 16 ″ radius and bridge in Madagascar rosewood. I used Stewmac's new Gold frets, which is made of the same metal as the EVO Gold bands, for the first time. Very good frets and better than the Dunlop brass frest I used before I think.

On request from the customer, I adjusted down the string height to 2,3 mm on all of them instead of 2,5 mm on thick E (D) on the 12th band and the usual string height 1,5 mm on thin e (d). This may become a new standard for me, it does not rattle at least when I play.

GG175 with an original floating bridge was in poor condition. It had big cracks in the top that I filled with spruce sticks, the bottom was completely loose and had shrunk unusually much. The top had also been painted on (or rather smeared on!) with some type of plastic lacquer. Fortunately, it was possible to gently scrape loose the new lacquer without scraping through the original lacquer underneath. To be able to glue back the bottom, a 6 mm wide (!) rosewood strip was glued in between the bottom halves. The shade after the string holder is the only problem with converting from floating to a fixed bridge. Just give it another 50 years… Since it's DADGAD tuned I can not play it, but I think it sounds good.

GG174 with an original fixed bridge was in good condition. No cracks except for a small one in the joint between the bottom halves. The neck in birch / maple on both this and GG175 is slightly V-shaped and just below the border to feeling too thick. Nice to play on. The new fretboards were made 6 mm thick, with a 16 ″ radius cut in, they were about 5 mm thick on the edge. I skipped the plate in maple in the bottom of the neck pocket as both guitars came loose nicely in the glue without chipping up the neck block. The neck foot on it was sawn unusually obliquely, but it was compensated by sawing just as obliquely in the neck pocket! Because it was in such good condition, the renovation went without problems.

All guitars in the batch have been given a slightly different bridgeplate in spruce across the entire top. My thought was that the change would provide a faster response. It's hard to say if it turned out that way, the only thing I can say is that these three sound very good and especially this one with a fixed bridge as the original. Maybe the problem with the body's resonant tone decreased.

GG179 was grandmother's guitar, a European made parlor from about 1910. Crack-free except for the classic cracks on both sides of the fretboard glued to the top and with a thin strong V-shaped neck. Unusually, it got plum wood in both the fingerboard and neck. Plum wood is almost as hard as rosewood and as dense as ebony in structure. The heartwood can be as dark as rosewood, but is for the most part a little redder or salmon pink in color. Plum wood is probably the best alternative if you want local woods in a fretboard and bridge. I still think that rosewood is unbeatable when it comes to the sound, this one sounds good but would probably have had a fuller tone with rosewood. As the wood in the fretboard is lighter than usual, I used black side dots.

I had a problem with the top, under the glued piece of the fretboard it was not flat. I had reset the neck one more time when the height of the saddle went wrong, even though I measured carefully before gluing. After putting a spruce shim in the top under the fretboard and sanding the surface flat, it turned out right. In the future, I will keep my eyes open and double check and maybe flatten the top under the fretboard before measuring the angle. A small, small error in the neck angle gives a great effect of the height of the saddle. I have changed from hot hide glue to fish glue and Old brown glue for gluing the neck in this batch. If something goes wrong with the neck set, it is easier to loosen the neck again, especially since they do not dry as quickly as hot hide glue. After 12 hours they are still not completely cured.

May well take some picture when they are handed over eventually 🙂

Proxxon KG 50

To make my segmented saddles, I need four bone posts and two larger bones for the outermost E / e strings.

When bone postst are to be made, I thin the thickness of the saddle blanks to 5,0 mm and a number with a few tenths more or less thickness in my drum sander. The precision when I saw in the spruce piece for the segmented saddle is not completely perfect, it is good to have some alternatives. Then it remains to cut the thinned saddle bone blanks into pieces that are partly 5,5 mm and partly 13 mm wide. I have previously used jigs and a hacksaw for cutting, but it was hardly perpendicular cuts. It was also both laborious and difficult. Something must be done.

I found a small handy circle saw made of Proxxon, and KG 50. It seemed to be perfect for the purpose.

When I got it home, I had to work a little extra to modify it before I could start. There was a 5 mm gap between the blade and the clamp to be able to cut at 45 degrees. I needed to cut the whole saddle bone blank into small 5,5 mm long pieces, so I made some abutments to extend the jaws in the clamp. I used aluminum. In addition, the stop that came with it was very small and swaying and the width 5,5 was at least + -1 mm when I tested. It had to be a real screw as a stop instead.

A problem with the stop was that the cut piece easily got stuck between the stop and the blade. Since the blade has the consistency of hard bread, some broke. Now I use an approximately 3 mm thick aluminum plate between the blank and the stop screw which is removed during cutting. Then a gap is left when the bone post is cut to fall into and it does not get stuck and destroy the blade.

It works very well! Perfect 90 degree cut with the right dimensions and no sweat in the forehead. Each cut takes about 10 seconds. My point extraction (and face mask) is necessary as the sanding pad produces a lot of fine-grained bone dust. The flour is so fine-grained that it cannot be vacuumed off, you must use a damp cloth.

 

Just got home 200 new 90 x 12,3 x 5,3 mm saddle bone blanks made from camel bone from New Delhi in India. Clearly exotic! This is the third order from www.luxurynaturalcraft.com no problem. My contact person is Rashdi Malik.